Many organizations conduct a session on lessons learned at the conclusion of a project. These can also be known as a project post-mortem or Correction of Errors meeting. Whatever name you use, this process can be invaluable to help improve and further develop a project team’s skills, techniques and tools.

At this meeting, two basic questions should be addressed.

  • What worked — What did we do right?
  • What didn’t — If we had to do this project over, what would we do differently?

To identify specific lessons learned, a project team may want to address not only the successes and failures, but items that were absent. What exactly does that mean?

  • Successes – Identify the management and quality processes that were particularly successful.
  • Failures – Identify the management and quality processes that were not successful; suggest why this might have occurred and what actions might prevent problems in the future.
  • Absence – Identify any processes, procedures or standards that were missing.

Some of the questions you will want to ask include:

  • Are you proud of the finished product? If yes, what is so good about it? If no, what’s wrong with it?
  • What was the single most frustrating part of our project?
  • How would you do things differently next time to avoid this frustration?
  • What was the most gratifying or professionally satisfying part of the project?
  • Which of our methods or processes worked particularly well?
  • Which were difficult to use?
  • If you could wave a magic wand and change anything about the project, what would you change?
  • Did our stakeholders, senior managers, clients and sponsors participate effectively? If not, how could we improve their participation?

This detailed analysis will help you in many ways, particularly in identifying your project management strengths and weaknesses. Only by knowing what you do well and where you fall short can you improve the next time around.

Do you hold a post-mortem on your major projects? Tell us about your evaluation process in the comments below, or tweet us using the hashtag #mcgblog.

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